Build Self-Esteem Through Music

Aug 4, 2015

As parents, you try your best to help your children through the peaks and valleys of their young lives with their self-esteem intact. You support their interests and encourage them to find friends that will support them and have similar hobbies. You praise their achievements, everything from tying their shoes to making their bed. Maybe you’ve even enrolled them in after school programs to keep their bodies as active as their budding minds. You probably even attend hour after hour of music, dance, or theatre lessons and recitals. And kudos to you for doing your best to raise a well rounded child with healthy self-esteem. But did you know just how important these activities really are?

Self-esteem is something countless people struggle with on a daily basis and arts-related activities like music lessons have been proven to help boost self-esteem in children. It can even help adults as well. Studies have shown that when children participate in a group music activity, the feed-back given and received helps to build a strong foundation for self-respect and -esteem by teaching them to accept praise and criticism from others in a healthy environment. And that’s only one of the countless benefits to building self-esteem through an education in arts and music. This week we’re going to take another dive into the benefits you and your children can reap from simple music lessons, and in case you haven’t guessed yet, our focus this week will be on building and maintaining a strong and healthy level of self-esteem.

A major part of one’s self-esteem is a sense of pride, and music can be a great source of personal pride. The time spent practicing scales, fingering techniques, and eventually songs, the effort put into those countless hours to get the skills just right, to make sure the timing is accurate, these things create a tremendous sense of accomplishment when the piece is at long last perfected and finally performed to an eager audience. Dory Kanter, an educational consultant and arts/literacy curriculum writer and teacher trainer, points out, “The arts are a great leveler, as we are all in the same boat, learning to create and succeed in new and unexpected ways.” Everyone in a group music lesson is usually at about the same skill level and learns to appreciate each others work and development, while also reflecting on their own performance and improvement.

Another important component of healthy self-esteem, especially in children, is the ability to develop real world life-skills. We have spent a lot of time on this page discussing the life-skills that can be fostered through an education in music, so we wont go into to much detail, but as I’m sure you recall, critical and creative thinking skills, improved hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, and important social skills like turn taking, sharing, and compromising are all skills that can be honed through a musical education. Kanter’s opinion on why these skills develop through the arts is an interesting and thought provoking one: “In my experience, students make a personal connection to a subject through the arts, and as a result, they deepen their thinking through a creative response.” She goes on to say, “In addition, students learn persistence and higher level thinking through creative problem solving when given the opportunity to spend time creating a completed, invested work of art.” So what exactly does Mrs Kanter mean? Well, in essence what she is saying is that when making the personal choice to invest in playing music, and putting the effort in to be the best they can, music students (and other arts as well) have given themselves a greater opportunity to think outside the box and develop better thinking and reasoning skills.

Academic achievement is also a strong source and indicator of a student’s level of self-esteem. Feeling confident in the classroom leads to better performance as well as improved self-esteem, and music lessons can help build important classroom skills like concentration and dedication, which have a strong effect on classroom values, assignment marks, and test scores. In fact, in 2009 12 years of data was collected for the National Educational Longitudinal Survey to see if there was a correlation between education in the visual and performing arts and the achievements and values of students. The study’s findings were pretty cut and dry, showing that students involved in arts programs consistently out-performed their peers who did not participate in art as often or at all. These findings were true throughout and despite socioeconomic groups. Furthermore, this study found that an education in music in particular helped bestow students with improved critical thinking, creative problem solving, teamwork, and communication skills.

But life-skills and classroom skills are not the only important parts of a healthy self-esteem. Another essential aspect is a sense of belonging and community. Sure, sports teams are great for this, but with music lessons a child can have a sense of building something magnificent together. When working towards a common goal, in this case tackling a difficult piece or a performance, students like that their voice is heard and they and their interests are understood and appreciated by others. This teamwork can create a feeling of acceptance that is one part of this aspect of self-esteem. But it goes even further than just the feeling of being part of something and having that sense of belonging; this kind of attachment promotes joining in social and creative activities while they feel that sense of camaraderie. They learn about trust, friendship, and develop critical interpersonal skills.

Self-esteem is such a such a huge, yet fragile thing. Many adults struggle to keep their own self-esteem and -respect at a decent level. But starting music lessons can help build up the critical components of self-esteem, ensuring that you and your child put their best foot forward. The lessons and skills an education in music (or any of the arts) can teach are universal and important to healthy growing and developing in Western culture, all offered in a safe and magical environment.